Former lawyer to the US President, Michael Cohen, has been jailed for three years after admitting to violating campaign finance law, tax evasion and lying to congress in the lead up to Donald Trump’s election win in 2016. Cohen will hand himself in on March 6th to begin his sentence.
It was claimed that Cohen paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 (£103,000) and Karen McDougal, a former playboy model, $150,000 (£119,000) so they wouldn’t mention anything about alleged relationships they had with Donald Trump. The President denies the affairs.
Cohen was also jailed for evading $1.4m (£1.1m) in taxes, and lying to congress about talks that Trump had with Russians over a building project in Moscow.
Cohen’s defense team asked for a lighter sentence, on the basis that he had worked with the prosecution team, and come clean with allegations. Trump, however, called for jail time, after calling Cohen a “liar”.
US district judge William H Pauley III said that Cohen deserved a harsh punishment for his roles in the crimes, and jailed him for three years in New York. Cohen was also ordered to forfeit $500,000 (£396,000) and repay nearly $1.4m (£1.1m).
The judge said that Cohen’s cooperation did not “wipe the slate clean”, and said that he “should have known better”. The judge also claimed Cohen “appears to have lost his moral compass”.
Cohen spoke about Trump at the hearing and claimed that he felt it was his duty to cover for the Presidential candidate.
“It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man [Trump] that led me to choose a path of darkness over light. I felt it was my duty to cover up his own dirty deeds.”Michael Cohen
The National Enquirer
On Tuesday, the parent company of The National Enquirer, America Media Inc. (AMI) admitted to paying hush money to a women who alleged she had an affair with Trump in order to “suppress the women’s story” and “prevent it from influencing the election”. Similar to Cohen’s payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
It is reported that AMI chief executive David Pecker and Cohen “and at least one other member of the campaign” met in August 2015. During this meeting, Pecker had agreed to help deal with negative stories surrounding the President, including his relationships with women.
Pecker had long been a supporter of Trump and The National Enquirer was known for supporting the candidate through his election campaign. However, it seems that Pecker has turned against Trump.
What does Michael Cohen’s sentence mean for Trump?
Former US Attorney Harry Litman said that ordinarily Cohen’s testimony would be damning, but under current Justice Department guidelines, Trump cannot be charged whilst in office. He could however be indicted once he leaves the White House, but a case against a former President would be far from simple.
Defense lawyers for Trump would have plenty of ammunition to attack Michael Cohen and discredit his testimony, not least that it would be argued that he only said what he did in order to get a more lenient sentence to his own crimes.
Regardless of whether Trump is charged, this will be a huge blow to him as President. The Robert Mueller investigation, which is looking into potential external interference into the 2016 election, especially from Russia, will have looked into Michael Cohen, and his admission that the Trump campaign lied to congress about their involvement with Russia before the election will raise eyebrows.
Trump himself has distanced himself from the allegations and denied ever having an affair, but Cohen and AMI’s admissions will sway public opinion. Trump ignored questions about Cohen in a press conference on Wednesday evening, despite earlier in the month being outspoken on the matter. He had called Cohen a “weak person” and “not very smart”, as well as later calling him a “liar”.